South Africa has a serious silicosis problem due to inadequate dust control and high disease rates in traditional “silica industries”. The strong association between silicosis and tuberculosis in southern Africa combined with the HIV epidemic make elimination of silicosis an important public health issue. Many ex-mineworkers in the Transkei region of South Africa are suffering from silicosis. Since the disease is preventable but incurable, many ex-miners have also died silent deaths in this region.
Three hundred of former mineworkers’ chest X-rays were taken and read by an independent Radiologist, between 1997 and 1999. Twenty-nine were unreadable, and were therefore excluded from study, leaving 271 chest X-rays for the study.
Sixty-six cases of silicosis (24.3%) were diagnosed radiologically. The severity of silicosis was categories as probable 26 (39.4%), slight 16 (24.2%), marked 19 (28.8%), and severe 5 (7.6%). Majority 20 (30.3%) of ex-mineworkers were less than 35 years; 14 (21.2%) were between 36 and 45 years; 16(24.2 %) were between 46 and 55 years, and 16 (24.2%) were 56 and above. Surprisingly, the silicosis was more prevalent among subjects who had worked in mines for less than 10 years (34.8%, n = 23), compared to those who had worked more than 21 years (15.6%, n = 10). The association between silicosis and PTB has been established and found to be about 5-times (OR=5.08) higher in the former mineworkers who had silicosis. The p value found to be < 0.01 suggestive of that these results did not occurred by chance. Chi-square (27.30) is also confirming the validity of the study.
There is a heavy burden of silicosis among young ex-mineworkers in the Transkei region of South Africa. This has compounded the problem of PTB and HIV in this region.
It is hoped that the present findings will help clinicians, epidemiologists and health policy makers in understanding better the problem silicosis in this region, and addressing it accordingly.
Banwari Meel, No Financial Disclosure Information; No Product/Research Disclosure Information